Kenchi-Cho (The Land Survey Register) (検地帳)

"Kenchi-cho" refers to the register compiled per village, in which the result of "kenchi" (land survey) was added up. It was also called "mizu-cho." Along with "iekazu jinba aratame-cho" (the survey register made per village in the Edo period on the number of houses, people, horses, and others), kenchi-cho functioned as the basic register for the feudal lord to rule the land and the people.


At an early stage of kenchi, there was no standardized form of kenchi-cho, because there existed some policies yet to be implemented, such as "muragiri" (the formation of cultivated land done per village through kenchi during the early modern ages of Japan, which reorganized the complicated rights on land in medieval Japan). Under the regime of Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI, it was only after the Bunroku era (A.D. 1592 - 1596) that the standardized form of kenchi-cho was established for "Taiko-kenchi" (the land survey by Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI), and under the Edo "bakufu" (Japanese feudal regime headed by a shogun), the standardized form was established only after the land survey in the Kanbun (A.D. 1661 - 1673) and the Enpo (A.D. 1673 - 1681) eras was implemented. Before the standardized form was established, the central regime had yet to bring all local provinces under control, so in some cases, it was doubtful whether the register was based on the survey result. Based on "muradaka" (the total yield of a village) written on kenchi-cho, the feudal lord imposed "nengu" (land tax) and "shoyaku" (miscellaneous taxes other than nengu) on villagers as a whole, which was called "murauke" (the village-wide, collective responsibility for tax payment).

Based on the result of kenchi, "kokumori" (the estimated yield from the land per "tan" [the old Japanese unit of land area]) was calculated in each village, and then, the following items were entered in kenchi-cho for each parcel of paddy, field, and residential area of the village. The entries were "azana" (name of the location), "chimoku" (category of the land), rank of the land's fertility (high/middle/low/very-low), area of the land, "bunmai" (yield from the land), and "naukenin" (farmer certified as the owner of the paddy, the field, and the house, who was entitled and obliged to cultivate its land, and was responsible for nengu and shoyaku). If necessary, the inhabitants' social position was entered into the blank space left in the item of residential area of kenchi-cho, because the degree of the burden of nengu and shoyaku differed between the common farmer and the other people, such as village officer, Buddhist priest, Shinto priest, and widow. And the nature of the land (e.g. woody land/bogland/ wetland/desolate land) was entered into the blank space left in the item of "chimoku." After the above-mentioned items for each plot of land in the village were entered in kenchi-cho, the yield per tan by the land category and that by the land's fertility rank were calculated, and then, muradaka was written into kenchi-cho. In the end, the total yield (and that per tan) of the whole kenchi-implemented region was written in kenchi-cho. A copy of the kenchi-cho was made, and a kenchi official and a village officer jointly signed both the original and the copy. Then, a magistrate affixed a seal on the seam in every page of the two kenchi-cho, and the feudal lord and the village each kept one. Roughly speaking, there existed two ways on what to enter into the item of naukenin. One was that only the person responsible for nengu and shoyaku was entered. Another was that the actual cultivator of the land was differentiated from the person responsible for those burdens, and it went, "The land is owned by - (or, "held by the family of - ") and cultivated by -." The person described in the kenchi-cho as naukenin was certified to be the owner of the land, while this meant that he (or she) was bogged down in the land. The latter way implies that the regime watched out for the rise of the land-owning class who owned lands but never cultivated them. In other words, it can be said that multilayered classes were formed within a village in those days.